“What I did on my summer vacation.” by Maryann Castellanos

This summer was full of surprises!  They were all “expected”, but the timing!!!  They  ended up being in very close proximity!

I haven’t even had time to write this carefully and add the pictures, etc.  But here is what I got.

Ben and Jaysa got engaged in the end of April!  They set their date for June 22 and later changed it to July 27th and Aug 4 for NC.  ( A good thing too, because Jaysa was still in exams until the last minute and Ben just completed his helicopter instructor’s rating in the nick of time.)

Jaysa and family drove out to accommodate her grandmother’s special needs for her wheelchair and vehicle. Jaysa’s aunt and uncle from Idaho also came to CA with all the kids and the families had lots of fun.

I got to be the Queen, aka, mother of the groom.

My sister Carol came.

As well as Scott and Pearson

Teresa kept an eye on the kitchen and got the details in order.  What fun it was.



My youngest, Mike (19) decided to change his plans from a four year degree to a two year Associates Degree.  Making his graduation magically appear on my schedule for July the 7th!  Richard and I flew in on Thursday and we got to see his place in Brooklyn before we left on Sunday.

It was a wonderful graduation with synchronized serving at the president’s table which was very entertaining.  The food was so wonderful.


We got to meet Sydney and her parents, visit the rose garden at the Roosevelt Mansion (summer home) and many other wonderful treats.

Mike and Sydney had prepared a living space for Mike to start work after graduation.  During these weekend trips in the city, they began to really understand their new life and accepted it.  Sydney changed her plans from going to Charlton to finding a job and living in NYC.  She interviewed and heard back right before graduation.

To help me understand Mike’s job, he showed me a website of the TOP50Restaurants.com.  I expected it to be in the USA, but instead, it was in the world. Of the top 10 that I glanced at,  there was only 1 in the USA and that is where he had his job.  I was a big overwhelmed to realize he made the major league!  Mike assured me that Sydney’s job was just as prominent.  Mike is interning with Daniel Boulud.  Sydney is with Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Mike found them an apartment and signed a lease in mid august and Sydney starts in the first week of September.    She has been collecting some furniture and she and her parents will be on their way to settle her in the city over Labor Day.

The third surprise is that my dear mother passed away on April 30th, 2012. We had gotten word that she was passing and my brothers met my sister in Sarasota where she had been sick and was at hospice.

I flew in at dinner time and she passed only a few hours later at midnight.  We were there; her two sisters (Marilyn and Hattie) and a daughter of each, (Sue, Karen, and me).  We sat with her and loved her.   At 11:30 the crew began to leave, but I was going to stay over with her.   The girls said their good bys and Marilyn said goodby urging Dot to let go.  That she was done and complete and she go.  We left Marilyn and went into the hall to give them privacy.  Marilyn came out to get us. Her breathing had changed.

The hospice nurse came to evaluate and told us how fortunate we were to be here and that her breathing had changed even more since she had begun observing.  She left us to hold the energy of passing for Dot, letting us know that she would be nearby.

It came to me to sing to her the Prayer of Saint Francis.  She couldn’t talk or open her eyes, but we know she hear us.  She was still, three little tears came out of her eye. Sue had called the others to come, but Dot passed before they got there.  I had talked her through it.  She was protesting internally with Marilyn, that she didn’t like that she wanted her to . . . die.  I re-framed it as not a bad thing.  It was an easy thing.  Like stepping out on a stage where all the people in the audience knew you.  Mom was concerned because she didn’t know what to do!  I suggested (inward conversation) that she just be “herself”.  There was no action or thought needed.  Just be herself.  She did it and slipped from us at that moment.

My brothers and sister, aunts and uncle, and cousin all stayed at my sister’s house in Sarasota, Fl.  Frankly, we weren’t going to sleep any time soon!  We couldn’t get anything done the next day.  It felt like we got hit with a DNA bomb as mom passed and all our current resources were taken out in the blast.  By Tuesday, we came up with a plan to have the funeral on the following Saturday in NJ.  We let people know and made arrangements for those who needed it, so that we could all be present. Then we went our ways until then.

I left Florida by air to NJ.  Mind you it was the first few days of May!!   That is snow bird migration time to go north.  There was a long line of wheel chairs that made me smile because the other side of the flight only had a few!  People from NJ make me smile.

Our NJ service was very memorable with friends, relatives, Dot’s cousins, my cousins, neighbors, etc.  All arriving and sharing in such wonderful fashion.  Somehow, my grandmother who passed in 1977 and the whole “gestalt” was there for me.  All those memories!  Whew.

What was also amazing and wonderful is that all of Dot’s grandchildren were there.  Even those who said they couldn’t come!  Peter came in from China, Caitie and Brian from their exams.  It was amazing!

After the service, we met in NYC for a “good time” which Dot was noted for.  We all went out on a yacht for a brunch cruise to the Statue of Liberty!  What fun to have us all together and what a great finale.  We all left feeling uplifted and satisfied!


Henry, Michael J., Caitie, and Sydney




But wait, there is more. . .

There was still the NC ashes to inter, service at church with the full choir and the cookies and punch in the basement of the church.  All southern style.  We arranged this in August at the same time as Ben and Jaysa’s reception so that I would be there to represent her.

It was wonderful.




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